Kkdoq6ejtoq9xs0cnqas

David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

For the most part, the New York Times gets it right in its editorial today on Bush's (and Cheney's) obsession with expanding executive power:

To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause [of expanding executive power] behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.


Exactly so.

But I do want to flag one concession the NYT makes, incorrectly in my view, in the midst of its otherwise solid indictment of the Administration (emphasis added):

While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.


Well, actually, quite a number of people question the White House's determination to fight terrorism. An Administration determined to fight terrorism after 9/11 would not have invaded Iraq, would have devoted considerable effort and resources to securing the nation's ports, and would have worked to minimize the effects of a terrorist attack by improving disaster preparedness, which Katrina starkly showed was not done. That's just the short list.

I don't want to make too big a deal of this because, taking the editorial as a whole, I'm not sure the NYT actually believes that Bush's determination is unquestioned. Much of the editorial's argument underlines precisely why the White House's determination to fight terrorism is questionable at best.

On the other hand, to frame the issue without challenging the White House's anti-terror credentials concedes far too much and ignores the many reasons, too numerous to document here but with which everyone is now familiar, to doubt this Administration's credibility.

A tantalizing tidbit on the Jerry Lewis-Bill Lowery front:

The investigation has even reached into Lowery's private life. One of his two ex-wives, Melinda Morrin, has been interviewed twice by the FBI about her ex-husband's dealings, her attorney said last week.


Things can't get much bleaker than when the FBI starts questioning your ex-wife--about you.

Steve Clemons offers up a different take on the broader strategic objectives behind Israel's recent actions in Gaza and Lebanon:

The flamboyant, over the top reactions to attacks on Israel's military check points and the abduction of soldiers -- which I agree Israel must respond to -- seems to be part establishing "bona fides" by Olmert, but far more important, REMOVING from the table important policy options that the U.S. might have pursued.

Israel is constraining American foreign policy in amazing and troubling ways by its actions. And a former senior CIA official and another senior Marine who are well-versed in both Israeli and broad Middle East affairs, agreed that serious strategists in Israel are more concerned about America tilting towards new bargains in the region than they are either about the challenge from Hamas or Hezbollah or showing that Olmert knows how to pull the trigger.


Meanwhile, Hezbollah rockets reach ever deeper into Israel, Israeli air strikes for the first time target central Beirut, and the IDF re-enters northern Gaza.

A word from the other half:

Being from the "other side" politically, I am a Republican but not a 100% hardcore conservative. I often come to this website to find legitimate "left" thinking . . . I think your analysis of the Democrats celebrating too often and not being in there for the long fight is bang on. I just hope they don't listen to you.

Referring to the senior senator from his state, a junior U.S. senator once told me, "He's had his head above the clouds too long."

I'm beginning to think the same thing about Joe Lieberman after reading this piece in the NYT on his tough primary battle. I'm ambivalent about the Lieberman-Lamont race, but people won't stay ambivalent for long if the picture painted of Lieberman in this piece--wounded by the slight of facing determined opposition--is accurate.

The senior senator referred to above wisely retired soon thereafter. You wonder whether Lieberman's exit will be as graceful.

How to explain the Democrats getting knocked back on their heels by Arlen Specter’s FISA proposal? I don’t have a complete explanation, but here’s what I think is a significant part of the answer.

After public outcry over domestic spying and other secret, extra-constitutional programs and a Supreme Court decision squarely against the Administration, many of us—myself included—at a deep and perhaps unconscious level presume that the Administration will have to cede some ground, compromise, reign itself it in.

The louder you argue, the more humble you should be when proved wrong, right? Argue loudly and wrongly enough times, and you start to lose credibility, right? By the unwritten Queensbury rules many of us live by, admission of error, of defeat, of poor judgment is the right and noble thing to do.

Democrats seem to have a highly evolved (and perhaps misplaced) sense of sportsmanship: magnanimous in victory; chastened in defeat. Whereas Dems will rise to a political fight when they deem circumstances warrant, Republicans consider politics nothing but a fight, with peace the exception, not the rule.

And so it is that many Democrats are unprepared to face an adversary who has a fallback position situated just inches behind the frontline, and a fallback position just inches behind that, and so on indefinitely.

When the Dems overrun a Republican position, they celebrate like drunken Hessians, only to sober up and realize they have gained very little ground at all and that the Republicans are still fighting.

I think Republicans have the more accurate view of politics. It is an ongoing battle. Power is a moving target, hard to seize, harder still to hold on to. So rather than viewing Hamdan as a sweeping victory to be relished as a vindication of principle, Dems need to see it, as Republicans do, as a starting point for negotiations. Negotiation, like diplomacy, is war by other means.

The Republicans have opened negotiations with a demand, in the form of Arlen Specter’s proposal, which is as much as they can hope to achieve, in an effort to tilt the range of possible outcomes in their favor.

Specter’s proposal dramatically expands presidential power at the very moment that many Dems and most commentators mistakenly perceive expansive executive power to be on the wane.

There is a lesson here, and a fight to be fought, if the Democrats will sober up.

TPMLivewire